If 2017 was the year the bitcoin market started to resemble a Dodge City saloon on party night, 2018 will be the year the sheriff rides into town. Just when you thought you could launder your ill-gotten gains safely with a bitcoin wallet, along come a bunch of start-ups aiming to bring order to the wild west that is bitcoin and blockchain development. And possibly get rich in the process.

In 2018, blockchain and bitcoin startups will be good guys

Let’s begin with a start-up aiming to keep law enforcement up to speed with crypto money movements. Elliptic tracks dodgy bitcoin flows, crunches the data, adds its own intelligence and provides the resulting information to law enforcement and financial regulators. Want to know how much money the Wannacry virus made? Elliptic can tell you this and plenty more. Their series A fundraising round got them $5m from just four investors.

GUTS is not as you might think, the latest medical app. Launched last month by means of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) which raised EUR 6.3m, it’s a blockchain-based smart ticketing application which prevents ticket fraud – the Guaranteed Unique Ticketing System.

Meanwhile, whistle-blower and privacy campaigner Edward Snowden, no less, is backing the Brave browser developed by Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla. This promises to reward publishers for content by using the $BAT – or Basic Attention Token. The key point is anonymity – users’ attention is captured, their identity isn’t. Eich describes it as a blockchain digital market for advertising.

Cardano runs a blockchain of its own and is aiming to develop tools that provide blockchain regulation and compliance. It claims to maintain user privacy through a multi-layer architecture. And in the charity sector, Aidcoin is using Ethereum and smart contracts to make sure that donations are spent efficiently and transparently. It’s backed by Charity Stars, the fundraising platform and it raised $4m at its pre-sale late in 2017.

AR, not VR, will lead the way in 2018

Augmented reality (AR) looks like one of the big stories for 2018. Yes, there’s big money in virtual reality but at the moment, development is concentrated on video games, probably because the developer community finds them interesting. The rest of the world? They’re looking for technology that can help them do what they currently do, only much better.

In 2018 AR will be moving into sectors with large budgets and giant user bases, such as transport and health diagnostics. Google may be planning a big splash at this year’s Vegas CES (the world’s biggest consumer electronics show) but a tech start-up – Magic Leap – is the most anticipated exhibitor so far. Their AR goggles have so impressed investors that the company has secured $1bn of funding to date.

Haptics are going to be big

The Magic Leap headset boasts a haptic controller – “haptic” is going to be a key word in 2018, as touch feedback to the user is incorporated into more devices and makes its way out of the gaming context and into the wider world. The applications of haptic technology in medicine and health care for example, are only just beginning to be appreciated, so look out for start-ups not yet born, that can take advantage of these trends.

Some existing start-ups, such as Medsights Tech, are developing AR glasses that will enable surgeons and health care staff to “see” veins and other structures below the skin, to guide injections and other treatments.

Meanwhile, Digilens reaped $22m from investors last year, for its work on more efficient and much thinner holograph projection media. The new technology will allow AR users a better view and field of vision. They’re going to be testing their product on HUDs – Heads Up Displays for vehicles. These are displays that augment the driver’s vision and are projected onto the screen, so the driver doesn’t have to look away – they’re already available in BMW, Volvo and other high end motors.

Put AR together with drones and you get Edgybees, started by an Amazon insider. Drone racing here we come. Back to earth though, with RealMax RealWear which is AR projected onto the user’s retina from a hard hat add-on, and purely aimed at industrial and commercial users.

All in all it’s looking like a great year for those with the right skills to take advantage of the new industries opening up.